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Phillips v. Rural Metro of Tennessee, L.P.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 30, 2017

CINDY PHILLIPS, ET AL.
v.
RURAL METRO OF TENNESSEE, L.P., ET AL.

          Session August 9, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Loudon County No. 2015-cv-95 Michael S. Pemberton, Judge

         We granted an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tenn. R. App. P. 9 in this case to consider whether the allegations set forth in the Complaint make this a 'health care liability action' as defined by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101 et seq. ("the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act") such that the pre-suit notice and certification requirements set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-26-121 and - 122 are applicable. We find and hold that the allegations set forth in the Complaint filed in this case do not make this suit a health care liability action as defined by the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act. We affirm that portion of the judgment of the Circuit Court for Loudon County ("the Trial Court") finding and holding that the allegations set forth in the Complaint filed in this case do not make this suit a health care liability action as defined by the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act.[1]

         Tenn. R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed, in part; Case Remanded

          P. Edward Pratt and Andrew J. Droke, Knoxville, Tennessee for the appellants, Rural Metro of Tennessee, L.P.; Rural Metro Corporation; and R/M of Tennessee G.P., Inc.

          Stephen Marcum, Huntsville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Johnathan Moore.

          Jeffrey H. Glaspie and Gary L. Adkins, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Cindy Phillips and Hobart Phillips.

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR. and JOHN W. MCCLARTY, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE

         Background

         On July 29, 2014, Charles Ray Phillips ("Deceased") was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Loudon County, Tennessee.[2] Deceased suffered severe, extensive burns in the accident. Authorities at the accident site placed a call to Loudon County ambulance service and a Rural Metro ambulance responded. After arriving at the scene of the accident and seeing the condition of Deceased's body, the ambulance employees refused to transport Deceased's remains to a hospital. Allegedly, one of the ambulance employees stated he did not want Deceased to "stink up the ambulance." Deceased's body remained by the roadside until an out-of-county ambulance could be summoned to transport Deceased's body. Local media reported the story including the comment about stinking up the ambulance.

         Deceased's parents, Cindy Phillips and Hobart Phillips ("Plaintiffs"), sued Rural Metro of Tennessee, L.P.; Rural Metro Corporation; and R/M of Tennessee G.P., Inc. (collectively "Rural Metro"), Johnathan Moore ("Moore"), and John Doe I & II alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege: "The conduct of the defendants in this cause of action greatly magnified their grief and distress in a manner that is nearly incomprehensible. In addition to the loss of a child, they were reminded regularly in the news that [Deceased] was left by the roadway so as to not 'stink up the ambulance.'"

         Rural Metro and Moore filed motions to dismiss alleging, among other things, that this suit was one for health care liability and that the failure to file a pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-26-121 and -122 was fatal to the action. The Trial Court denied the motion finding, in part, that this is not a health care liability action[3]. The Trial Court then granted Rural Metro and Moore permission to ...


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